The Playbook For The Modern Man

The Difference Between Business & First Class Lounges You Had No Idea About

A lot of work goes into your lounging around.

For most travellers it can be a simple case of ‘another day, another flight’. For those who have the privilege and bank balances to boot, it’s all about business class or first class. Obviously there’s no need to answer which class is better, but have you ever wondered what actually sets a business class lounge apart from a first class lounge – from a design perspective?

We hit up David Caon of Caon Studio to help us answer some of these often pondered questions. And for those who don’t know, Caon is one of Qantas‘ leading designers who’s had a hand in everything from the airline’s A380 cabin, to their tableware, to their plush lounges both at home and abroad.

Materials Make The Difference Between Lounges

Marble flooring in Qantas’ First Lounge in Sydney

If you’ve ever walked into Qantas’ Business or First lounge you’ll notice a clear difference in design.

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“Typically, business lounges are larger, and so the materials have to cover more ground,” explains Caon. This criteria forces the design team to be smarter with how they use these finishes without compromising on overall quality. In Qantas’ Business Lounges specifically, there’s liberal use of more durable materials.

“Materials need to be more durable here as [business] lounges can be busy, so we use materials like polished concrete in Singapore and Hong Kong because they’re robust and beautiful.”

The Qantas First Lounge is where materials get a little fancier.

“You will typically find more extensive use of luxurious materials like Italian marble and solid timber in a first class lounge,” says Caon.

Luxurious materials are also used in Qantas’ Business Lounge but it’s executed more sparingly and only in key areas.

“The First Lounge is uncompromising from that perspective. It has to be a beautiful space that performs at the top level of its lifespan.”

Bespoke Furniture & Designer Classics

The Qantas Chairman’s Lounge In Brisbane

Explaining this area as a “difference” probably wouldn’t be entirely correct since Caon bespoke designs much of the furniture for both Qantas lounges. Designer classic furniture is also included in both lounges but it’s the ultra exclusive Chariman’s Lounge (by Qantas invite-only) which gets the most designer furniture appointments.

“In our Chairman’s Lounge in Brisbane we have included classic pieces by some of my favourite designers and artists,” says Caon.

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“The lounge team has a fact sheet about those objects in case customers ask what something is. I love to share my passion for that stuff.”

Space, Lighting & Ergonomics

The Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles

Passengers in just about any first class lounge can expect more space when compared to its business class counterpart. Caon says that this is a familiar format shared within the aircraft cabin. In the lighting department it’s all about creating ambience. Caon says that they want lounges to feel as comfortable as possible and work closely with lighting designers to ensure  the right outcome is achieved for both lounges. The difference here is minimal.

When it comes to defining the ergonomics between Business and First Lounge, every furniture piece must be tested.

“We test and prototype everything we design,” says Caon. “Depending on where a seat is located, it may have different characteristics. It’s not really a differentiator between the two lounge types – apart from the available space and how that affects overall comfort levels.”

Creature Comforts & Creating ‘Identity’

Qantas Business Lounge: Utilitarian and more akin to a professional work space

“There are synergies throughout the design, dining and service of Qantas First Lounges, but each lounge has its own identity,” explains Caon.

As mentioned, passengers can expect more luxurious materials like marble and oak in all Qantas First
Lounges because this is an expectation. Customers here have also come to expect favourites like salt and pepper squid on each menu. And this is what forms the ‘identity’ of the lounge.

As an example Caon uses the new Qantas Singapore Lounge that incorporates local cuisine and architecture like greenery and neutral colours to create this identity.

“Dining in the First Lounges is à la carte, which passengers love and we’ve really expanded that in our Singapore design because dining is so important for that port.”

Alternatively, the transit lounge Caon designed in Perth for the Dreamliner flights has a yoga studio for passengers to help them prepare prior to flight.

“That could be viewed as less of a creature comfort and more of a necessity these days prior to flying 17 hours to London.”

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So What’s The Overall Difference?

Qantas First Lounge in Sydney

Whilst Caon can only speak for the design aspects of the two lounges which make up the product, a major part of it is also the service and the physical space on offer.

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  • Drewzilla

    Cool theory. May only apply to Quantas, though. The LAX first star alliance lounge seems to be focusing on the “durable” materials. The only differentiator between first and business for star is table service and the room size.

    I’ve only seen the Quantas first LAX lounge from the (decidedly inferior) KAL lounge. I hope to try that out someday.

  • JonQSmithe

    Qantas’ biz lounge looks appallingly bad. Looks like a crappy Priority Pass lounge. Sad!

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